Maywood Middle School to produce ‘Wonka Jr.’

April 6, 2010

By Tim Pfarr

Seventh-graders (from left) Ali Whittles, Mikayla Nudelman and KJ Winegar — who play Mr. Bucket, Grandma Georgina and Grandpa George, respectively — read during a rehearsal for ‘Wonka Jr.’ By Tim Pfarr

Maywood Middle School has teamed up with the Mercer-Island-based theater group Youth Theatre Northwest to produce “Wonka Jr.” for the school’s annual musical.

The play is being produced through the stage company’s Show to Go program, in which the company teams up with schools to help produce a play or musical by providing a director, sets, costumes and a choreographer.

The plays available to schools through the program rotate annually, and this year the options were “Once on This Island” and “Wonka Jr.” The school staff picked “Wonka Jr.,” a more concise version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” by Roald Dahl.

“It’s kind of a classic tale that appeals to everybody,” said Gina Winegar, sixth-grade humanities and health teacher, and staff advisor for this year’s musical. “It’s just a lively, encouraging, fun, uplifting play.”

“Wonka Jr.” features a cast of 50 students, and Winegar said this was influential as well, as they wanted to include as many as possible in the production. More than 60 students auditioned for roles, which, in addition to the many main characters, include nine Oompa-Loompas and 20 chorus members known as “Candy Kids.”

Of course, a 50-person cast makes for busy rehearsals when all are on hand.

“This place is buzzing with kids,” Winegar said, adding she found the key to managing such a large group is channeling the energy the kids bring.

Maywood eighth-graders Olivia George and Courtney Santos play Charlie and Willy, respectively. They both have extensive theater experience, but they agreed leading such a large group can be tricky at times.

“It’s fun, but it’s challenging,” Courtney said. “You always have to pay attention.”

Winegar said having the experienced actresses at the helm is helpful to the other cast members.

“I think that kids look up to them and are excited to work with them,” Winegar said.

This is the school’s first time working with Youth Theatre Northwest. Maywood teacher Hillary Nadell initially contacted the theater group company last summer through her connections with other schools.

Winegar and Connie Taylor, a tech specialist and staff advisor, said the outside help has been incredibly helpful.

“Their expertise in what they do really helps give our kids the amazing opportunity to learn from professionals,” Winegar said about Youth Theatre Northwest.

The play’s director, Youth Theatre Northwest staff member Kate Jaeger, said having the theater group handle the bulk of the production makes producing a play easier for the school.

“Hopefully, it takes some of the stress off of the school’s resources,” she said.

Tim Pfarr: 392-6434, ext. 239, or Comment at

If you go

‘Wonka Jr.’

  • Maywood Middle School
  • 14490 168th Ave. S.E., Renton
  • 7 p.m. April 15-17
  • $7
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